International Bridges to Justice (IBJ) is a pioneering legal aid provider in Myanmar. IBJ first visited Myanmar in 2011, and in 2013, convened a major legal aid conference, marking one of the earliest discussions between the Myanmar government and civil society about legal aid. Since 2017, IBJ Myanmar has been partner for the European Union-funded and British Council-implemented MyJustice Programme for a justice project that includes extensive lawyer capacity building and the establishment and operation of 5 Justice Centers in Hpa-An in Kayin State, Mandalay, Taungoo in Bago State, Taunggyi in Shan State and Nay Pyi Taw in Myanmar.
Our Impact in Numbers:
- 5 Justice Centers established
- 4,865 people provided with legal representation
- 2,000 lawyers trained
- 488 justice officials trained through roundtables
- 20,777 people reached through rights awareness campaigns
- 12 eLearning Modules created
What we do
IBJ Myanmar’s work focuses on its four core mission objectives:
- Providing free, quality legal aid: IBJ Myanmar provides pro bono, client-centered legal representation to poor, vulnerable and marginalized people facing criminal charges via our five Justice Centers in: Mandalay, Taunggyi, Taungoo, Hpa-An, and Nay Pyi Taw.IBJ Myanmar hosts Know Your Rights events in communities to explain legal rights, answer questions, and provide information about our legal services. We also conduct focused-group legal empowerment that walks clients and their family members through the judicial process step by step.
- Building capacity of the legal profession to provide legal aid: Since 2017, IBJ Myanmar has provided legal trainings to hundreds of lawyers. Our internship program provides law students with practical legal aid experience. Additionally, we hold peer-led legal discussions monthly through our five legal aid Communities of Practice; these have led to joint strategic litigation and advocacy. We provide continuous mentoring to lawyers on IBJ’s client intake process and eligibility criteria.
- Supporting systemic access to justice change: IBJ Myanmar works with key justice stakeholders — including the government, ULAB and LABs, the police, penitentiaries and civil society — to foster increased access to justice. We hold regular justice roundtables that are attended by hundreds of justice stakeholders. IBJ Myanmar also works with Social Welfare Departments to better aid accused and convicted juveniles under the new Child Rights Law.Since February 2019, IBJ Myanmar has had a Memorandum of Agreement with the Union Legal Aid Board (ULAB) and works with local LABs. We regularly receive local LAB case referrals, conduct joint legal aid roundtables with LABs, and hold bilateral meetings with ULAB to discuss implementation of the Legal Aid Law. We have donated 1000+ copies of IBJ Myanmar’s Criminal Defense Practice Manual to LAB offices.
IBJ Myanmar has a working relationship with prosecutors. Law officers participate in our justice roundtables. IBJ also meets regularly with the Union Attorney General and Advocate Generals in their respective regions and states. Additionally, we conduct consultations with the police and prison leadership.
- Rights awareness: IBJ Myanmar has conducted hundreds of Know Your Rights awareness events to educate the public about their legal rights and the IBJ resources available to them. IBJ Myanmar has distributed thousands of Know Your Rights flyers and posters reaching over 16,000 people directly. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, IBJ Myanmar Justice Centres piloted online KYR program through ZOOM, targeting university students, who we believed would be more agile at using the internet. In Mandalay the lawyers held an in-person KYR for the family members of juvenile clients and interested community members, focusing on child rights. In Nay Pyi Taw the team went to a distant village to organize an in-person event. In Taungoo court clerks, law students and young lawyers were educated on rights of the accused. In Taunggyi the participants of an online KYR event on early access, rights of the accused and child rights included students from many states and private company staff. Topics at all events were focused on fundamental legal rights of the accused, right to a fair trial and specific laws such as Monogamy Law, Infectious Disease Prevention Law, Traffic Law, Gambling Law, Domestic Violence and Fundamental of Criminal and Civil Law.
Since the State of Emergency
Since the Myanmar military declared a State of Emergency on February 1, 2021, IBJ Myanmar has continue its work. Despite Internet cuts, daily internal discussions continue apace using the Signal app, and IBJ-Geneva is providing enhanced support for IBJ Myanmar. All of IBJ Myanmar’s administrative and programmatic staff, as well as its 21 staff lawyers, have been provided written guidelines on:
- The emerging political context and the State of Emergency
- Status update on communications, movements and transportation
- IBJ points of contacts during emergencies
- Personal security
- Security of data and assets at Justice Centers
- External communications and social media
- Continued compliance with COVID-19 precautions
Further, IBJ has conducted an online legal training for all its Justice Center lawyers on, Best Practices and Strategies for Defending Accused during Emergency Situations. The trainer was a defense lawyer with over 30 years of practice experience at local and international levels, including assisting Cambodian lawyers on the ground during the 1997 transfer to military rule.
Finally, IBJ has prepared a comprehensive primer in Burmese for distribution entitled, Practice Tips for Representing Clients During the State of Emergency in Myanmar. This politically neutral primer was written to aid lawyers and other legal professionals to provide appropriate legal aid during the State of Emergency, compliant with the law and ethical codes. Legal interpretations and possible lawful legal defense strategies are provided for those accused of offenses, including:
- Offenses Against the State
- Holding an Assembly or Procession Without Notification
- Violation of the Natural Disaster Management Law
- Offenses Affecting the Public Health, Safety, Convenience, Decency and Morals
- Violation of the Telecommunications Law
- Criminal Intimidation, Insult, and Annoyance
- Offenses Against Public Tranquility (unlawful assembly or rioting)
This primer will be distributed to IBJ Myanmar’s staff lawyers, 100+ Community of Practice lawyers, as well as broader legal community. The Primer is available in Burmese and English.
We provide training, tools, manuals and eLearning, developed with our partners, funded through grants, and resourced through pro-bono assistance.
- Defender Manual – Criminal Defender ToolKit – English
- Defender Manual – Criminal Defender ToolKit – Burmese
For more information on IBJ Myanmar programming, please contact International Program Director Sanjeewa Liyanage at email@example.com